Details of the tactic the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials used to nab an illegal immigrant in Southern California in May 2018 have emerged.
Emails sent by ICE officials show the agency used social media and information collected by for-profit data brokers to track down and arrest the immigrant, according to The Intercept.
The emails, which were disclosed in federal court filings, show that ICE officials confirmed the immigrant’s identity through Facebook photos posted at his father’s birthday party. The emails were filed by the government in response to a motion by a federal public defender whose client was being criminally charged with felony illegal reentry.
The immigrant had been living in the US since he was a year old and reentered the country after previously being deported over a nonviolent felony involving the receipt of stolen goods at an auto shop. Prior to his deportation, he worked as a roofer and his children are American citizens.
“I came back to be with my family,” the immigrant told the judge at his sentencing hearing in January. “I’m sorry. That’s all.”
Court documents indicate that a probe into the immigrant was opened on February 22nd, 2018, when ICE’s National Criminal Analysis and Targeting Center generated a lead and forwarded it to an ICE office in Los Angeles. ICE periodically sends datasets of deported persons to the NCATC to run through its Data Analysis System in a bid to establish whether they have re-entered the US.
The data analysis system screens data from other federal agencies, as well as commercial data brokers, to match the names of deported persons to recently issued car registrations, utility bills, and mailing addresses, among other records.
After receiving the lead, the Los Angeles ICE office wrote to the agency’s Pacific Enforcement Response Center (PERC) for help in tracking the Mexican immigrant. PERC is a unit that provides intelligence support and placing detainers on immigrants in custody across the US so they can be picked up by ICE.
A few weeks later, on May 4th, 2018, an official at PERC reached out to ICE to report he had found the immigrant’s Facebook account. He was using his legal name on Facebook, with the PERC official explaining that he used Thomson Reuters CLEAR to find the immigrant’s home address, as well as the address of his parents.
The PERC official then ran the addresses CLEAR provided through Google Maps and compared them to the pictures that the immigrant had posted on Facebook of his father’s backyard birthday party. One of the addresses was a match, meaning the Facebook account belonged to the person ICE was looking for.
“Happy birthday to my dad. And to a shitload of years more,” the immigrant captioned one of the photos at the birthday party.
On May 24th, 2018, the immigrant “checked in” on Facebook at a Home Depot to buy roofing supplies. ICE officers waited outside the store, stopped and arrested him as he was driving out of the parking lot. His previous removal order was immediately reinstated, but he was not deported and instead, he was charged with felony illegal reentry.